Wednesday, 30 January 2013

How to Live with Lemons

Hello! Well, after a week of feeling terrible, I'm finally well again and thank goodness - I couldn't take another day stuck in the house. Now that I feel better, I present unto you a short story I wrote last week, using the prompt of 'How to Live with Lemons'. I quite like it - it's simple and nicer than the other stories I write. I just hope you like it as well.

How to Live with Lemons



The sun was soft and the lemons shone with a waxy yellow glow.

John looked at them for a moment before setting his polished cane on a workshelf and busying himself with the oranges beside him. They weren’t ripe yet and their skins were still tinged green and brown, speckled with tiny midges. John swatted them with his hand and bent forward to water the trees. The sunlight warmed his back - it was only May, but the sun had reached his climax in the sky. The two weeks of British summer had arrived, and predictably, everyone was still stuck in their offices, left to rot in sweltering cubicles, tied to slowly melting plastic desks.  If there was one thing John liked about this job, it was being in the open air.

A bee buzzed by a flower and John paused to watch it dive inside and reach towards the nectar. Its striped body shook for a moment and then it was gone, carrying precious pollen with it. It fluttered towards the lemons and settled on a leaf, grooming itself with spindly legs. Beautiful. Calming. It was just what the doctor ordered. Literally. This job, this small job slaving away in a greenhouse, was prescribed by the therapist. He wouldn’t have chosen it himself - he liked to think he was too active to be stuck here all day - but he was so glad he had been forced to do this. It had done wonders for him. His leg no longer ached and slowly, he was beginning to forget the screams and the flickering flames.

The sun was orange in the sky and the lemon trees quivered in a gentle breeze. The plantation was deserted. John stood straight, his gun on his back and his hand curved around a single flickering match. Behind him, the commander was smiling at him, silently egging him on. John took a step forward. He knew what he had to do; he knew why he had to do it. This orchard provided an income for an illegal terrorist ring. He knew that and he knew that if he destroyed it, he would be a hero. Glancing at his fellow soldiers, he threw the match on the ground and the trail of gasoline they had laid sparked. Swooping rings of fire licked the trees. There was a crackling and the lemons lit up like Christmas decorations. John nodded at his commander. He had done well.

That was when the screaming started.

 “Hey, John?”

John glanced up and smiled. Zipper was standing at the door, his small eyes glinting in the sun and his mouth pulled into a lopsided grin. He was wearing the trademark outfit that gave him his nickname - a pair of standard issue dungarees but the zip and fly ripped off and replaced with a small patch of Velcro. He said it was for easy access. The sex-crazed hound.

“What’s up, Zip? Are the aphids back?” John shifted and grabbed his cane from the table. It was oak, strong and sturdy, and its support made him feel safer. His leg was stiff and painful in the mornings. The afternoons weren’t so bad.

Zipper shook his head, his mop of brown hair tumbling in front of his eyes. “Naw, mate. Someone’s here to see you.”

John widened his eyes and stood up a little straighter. “Me?” he asked. The only person who ever wanted to see him was his therapist. He had no girlfriend, no wife, no friends other than Zipper and Grant, the other guy that helped look after the greenhouse. He lived by himself. He never phoned or talked to anyone. He never went out. So who could be coming here to see him? “Surely there’s some mistake.”

“Nope. She asked for you directly.”

“Who is she?”

Zipper shrugged. “I don’t know. Didn’t say her name. She your girlfriend?”

John let out a small laugh. “No, she’s not. I don’t have one.”

“You need some action, that’s what you need. A little-”

“Ok, Zipper, that’s enough. Bring her in please.”

Nodding, Zipper turned around and walked out the greenhouse, leaving John to mull over the information. 

Someone was here to see him - a woman who didn’t say her name. Great. A lot to go on there. John shifted and slowly, carefully leaned toward a silver plate used for carrying seeds. The reflection was distorted and grimy, but he could still make out the hollows of his face, the pits and valleys where life had taken hold.

He smoothed back his hair and stared at himself. He was still quite handsome. He was still young. Why wouldn’t a woman want to see him? Giving himself a quick pat on the cheek, John turned around and heard footsteps echoing through the greenhouse, walking through the lemons and the oranges. For a moment, he saw nothing, but then, she appeared.

His angel, his maker, his master.

His saviour.

He couldn’t speak for a second. His eyes were pinned to her face, dark and Arabian, with almond eyes and lips the colour if plums. Her hair was hidden beneath a purple hijab. “John,” she said, her accent twisting the word into something it wasn’t. She made it sound beautiful.

“What is your name?”

A dark face leaned over his and John licked his dry, cracked lips. He couldn’t remember what happened. Something to do with lemons...

“John”, he murmured, his eyes drooping. A cool cloth was pressed to his forehead and someone touched his leg.

“It’s ok. Sleep.”

With the angel’s permission, he rolled over and began to snore.

John stammered, not quite sure what he wanted to say. Thank you? How are you? It was not enough. No words would ever be enough. So, instead, he forced a smile. “Adara. What are you doing here?”

A smile spread across her face and she leaned towards him, giving him a gentle peck on the cheek. 

“Checking up on you, of course.”

“No, really. Why?”

Adara moved away. “I needed to leave. They found me.”

John’s heart thumped in his chest and he to fight an urge to run forward and wrap his arms around her, a pitiful excuse for safety. “The terrorists?”

“Yes. They...how do you say it in English...had it in for me.” She smiled again, but her eyes were sad, lonely even. “So I come here. I thought you would want to see me.”

Nodding, John glanced at the ground, too embarrassed to look at her anymore. “Yes. Thanks.”
There was a moment of silence, a gap in the air. “So...lemons?” Adara curled her hand around one and pulled it from the tree. It sat in her hand, glistening with moisture and heavy with juice. She gave it a gentle squeeze. “Funny how it all comes back to lemons,” she said in her fractured English. “Very funny.”

John sighed and turned back to the oranges. “Do we have to talk about this?”

“No. But I would like to.”

Picking up a pair of hedge cutters, John started to trim the stray branches of the tree. Pruning - cutting away the dead so the living don’t suffer. His leg twinged painfully all of a sudden.

“Your leg?”

John wasn’t aware he had done anything, but nonetheless he nodded. Adara motioned for him to sit down and with gentle hands, she pulled back the trouser leg. The flesh was white and ragged, with mountains and ridges of scar tissue carving out the landscape of the skin. It was hideous, and John turned away from it. 
Adara sat and looked at it for a second, before sighing. A finger stroked the blisters and John glanced at her.

“And here I was,” she said, “thinking I had done a good job.”

When he woke, the angel was standing over him, a battered stethoscope round her neck and a pile of bandages in her hand. “My name is Adara,” she said, leaning towards him. The world came into focus - he was in a little girl’s bedroom. He could see smoke in the distance. A man was standing at the door, glaring at him with a rage he had never seen before. “I’m a nurse. Let me help your leg.”

“My-my leg?”

John glanced down, but the nurse pushed his head back up. “No, no,” she soothed, letting is head rest on the pillow. “You don’t want to see. Not yet.” A smile played across her face. “Surprise.”

“Oh, I hate surprises...” John yawned as Adara raised his leg. He couldn’t feel anything. “So, where’s the little girl? The owner of the room?”

Adara’s face darkened and she ducked her head. “She is not here. Not anymore.”

“Oh.”

Looking up, Adara nodded. “Oh, indeed.”

John shook his head. “You did a brilliant job. It’s just...well, sometimes there isn’t much you can do.”

“I know that...but I like things to be beautiful. You are a beautiful man, John, but your leg...” She trailed off and waved her hand in the air. “I knew someone who could fix this. A very good man - could have done it for free, if I asked-”

John caught her hand in mid-air and laid it gently on his lap. “It’s fine, Adara. I don’t notice anymore.” He always had been a good liar. “Thank you for fixing it up as well as you did. Without you, I probably wouldn’t even have a leg.”

“Yes, well, you learned a lesson that day.”

“And what was that?”

Adara stood up, the sadness back in her eyes. “Not to run into burning orchards.”

John’s stomach dropped like a stone and he felt guilt burrow into his mind. “You know about that?”

“I always knew about that.”

“H-How?”

Adara shrugged and played with lemon she had plucked, rolling it across her thigh. “Not hard to work out. Soldier stumbles into my father’s garden, leg on fire and smoke drifting from his hair. Meanwhile, a lemon grove burns. Not hard to figure out.” She paused. “Also, you smelled of...of...what is the word...petrol, that is it. You smelled of petrol.”

John buried his head in his chest. He hoped she would never find out. That she would never see him as a destroyer, only as a friend and a lover. But that illusion was over now. He had failed her. He had failed her, and he had shamed her.

“I’m sorry,” he said after a few minutes, choking back guilt and swallowing tears. “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s alright. It was you job. I must say these fruit suit you better.” John forced a laugh and Adara knelt down beside him, holding his head in her hands. “You are not a violent man, John, that I know for sure. Just tell me...what happened that day?”

“I-I...I don’t remember.”

Adara raised an eyebrow. “You don’t remember, or you don’t want to?”

The screaming pierced the air like a siren and the group fell silent. It took a moment for the commander to tell everyone to move, to run, to get the hell out of there. The soldiers splintered - some running west, others running south, away from the tower of smoke and the bitter smell of burning citrus. John didn’t move. He couldn’t move. All he could hear was the scream. He had done that.

“Connelly, move!”

“No, Sir.”

John yanked off his boot and wound his sock around his face. It stank, but it was better than the smoke. He could hear the commander screaming at him, threatening to shoot his sorry ass. It didn’t bother him. A life wasn’t about to end because of him. Not today.

Bracing himself, he ran forward into the flames. The heat seared his skin and he could feel smoke creeping up through his lungs with every breath, a deadly cancer. He kept going, pushing through the mouldering trees. The screaming was getting quieter and quieter. Whoever it was was losing hope. 

John pushed on. The leaves were burning his face and he could feel flames lick the inside of his trouser leg. The pain started and he bit down in his tongue to stop himself from crying. He could feel flesh sizzling, burning, dying. He had to go on...

There. In a clearing. A girl. He head was pressed to the ground and her clothes were back with smoke. She was sobbing gently, and tears were dampening the earth below her. She rose for a moment and fell again. Praying. She was praying.

With a cough and a stutter, John ran towards her, limping as his leg was eaten by flames. He didn’t pause to take her hand - instead he hauled her over his shoulder and ran back. Her heart was faltering. He could hear it under her breast, trying so very hard to grasp the ragged edges of life she still had. She was breathing slower, shallower and her tears had stopped flowing. No. Not today. Not on his back.

John ran, weaving through the lemon trees, stumbling over roots and squashing plump yellow  lemons, miniature suns that burned and flickered. Smoke was clogging his lungs and his leg had gone numb. He had to keep going...he...he had to...go...

John reached the edge of the orchard and slumped forward. The girl was lying on top of him, her chest still and her eyes closed, the eyelids stained black with soot. Coughing, John rolled her onto the ground beside him and touched her forehead. He couldn’t speak, not properly, but he tried. He murmured Arabic phrases to her, cooed to her, begged her to be alive. Nothing. Not a breath, not a sneeze. Just...nothing.

Tears spilled down his cheeks and John suddenly howled, pain ripping through him like a bullet. Guilt and grief and agony exploded out of him. He pushed himself upright and screamed. His leg was mutilated by fire, burned and scarred and blistered. Pus was already beginning to form, seeping down his boots. He bit his tongue and glanced at the dead girl. She looked scared. So very very scared.

John wiped his eyes and gritting his teeth, he started walking, he hoped, to his destruction.

By the time he was finished, tears were flowing fast from his eyes, warming his cheeks and wetting his shirt. Adara put her arm around him and cradled his head. “It’s ok,” she said, stroking his hair. “I will help you cry.”

They didn’t speak for a while -John sobbed and Adara rubbed his back, singing lullabies to him. Eventually, he stopped and ducked his head. “I’m sorry,” he said again. “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s ok, John. It was not your fault. You tried to save her.”

“But I didn’t. I was too late, far too late. She was dead, Adara. She was dead and I killed her.”

“You were a soldier in a war that doesn’t need to be fought. So was she. There are casualties. People get hurt. But it is not your fault.”

John sobbed and felt the lemon in his hand. “You must learn to live with yourself, John. It’s not your fault. 
Guilt will not bring her back...” Adara smiled slightly, her eyes twinkling in the sunlight. “You must learn to live with lemons, John. They are bitter, they are sour, they are sweet. But the world would be much less beautiful without them.”

John watched her stand up, his cheeks damp and his eyes stinging. “I can’t thank you enough, Adara. You saved my life.”

“Nonsense.” Adara glanced past the trees and sighed. “I must be going away now. Thank you, John. For telling me what happened.”

John shook his head and slowly stood up. He reached for his cane and leaned on it, trusting on it to support him and the guilt he harboured. “Why did you want to know? After all this time?”

Adara paused by the door and a smile ran across her face. “My sister’s body was found three days after the fire, sitting at the edge of the black trees. People wondered how she got there - they wondered why she was still whole and not ash, sprinkled through the wind.” She nodded at him. “You saved my sister’s body. You tried to save her life.”

“Adara, wait...please...” John let his words fall flat. They were pointless. She wouldn’t listen and anyway, she was gone, her skirt trailing behind her and her arms swinging loosely by her sides. John slumped back down into the chair. Her sister. The empty room.  Her father’s hatred towards him.

John looked down at the lemon in his hand and he squeezed it. Bubbles of juice formed on the skin, round and perfect.

Funny how it all came back to lemons. 

Monday, 21 January 2013

The Lovesong of a Nerdy Fangirl

Hello everybody! How are you today? I would like to share a poem with you. "A poem?" you say, gasping. "Surely Jennifer hasn't written a poem?" The answer is yes, I have, but not like you're thinking of. It's a chat -up line poem. A very nerdy chat-up line poem.

I wrote it for English (we're doing Sonnet 130, basically Shakespeare chatting up a women in a very strange  backward way) and my teacher thought it would be hilarious to make us write a chat-up line poem ourselves. Being a froever alone troll, I didn't know any, so I ran to tumblr for help. There I found the treasure trove of nerdy chat up lines and I collected them into this - the holy grail of geeks, nerds and fangirls alike. Some I made up, but most of them I copied. Enjoy! ^-^

The Lovesong of a Nerdy Fangirl

You must be made of copper and tellurium,
Hi, I’m the Doctor - will you be my companion?
Your smile’s expelliarmus, simple but disarming,
You’re Moriarty, devious and charming,
Your lips are like skittles, but your body’s 3.14,
Is your name Google, cause you’re what I’m searching for,
If you were a library book, I’d check you out,
My deductions tell me without a doubt,
That if I’m Sherlock, you must be John,
If I’m the Doctor, you must be a Pond,
And one thing is certain, one thing is true:
You’re Richenbach, cause I’m falling for you.


Thursday, 17 January 2013

Comatose - Part 2

Hello, hello, hello, my lovely followers! It's my birthday tomorrow, but if I'm totally honest, I'm not excited in the the slightest. It's one day of the year - it just so happens that it was the day I took my first shaky breath on this confusing world. But it doesn't make much of a difference. I'm still going to mistakenly tell people I'm 14 and I'm still going to be as ignorant and socially awkward as I am today. I'm still going to be full of ideas and thoughts and wishes that will never come true. This is going to seem like the weirdest analogy ever, but bear with me:

Growing up means you add more years. You don't minus the ones you've already got, you just add another, and another and another - an onion in reverse, if you will. You never lose your previous years...ever. So when you're upset and crying, you're just going back to your 8-year-old self. When you laugh at stupid things, you're peeling back the layers until you reach 5 or 6.
I know that's a bit odd and a weird way to look at it, but I think it makes sense. Sorry to bore you with that...Anyway, here's the second part of Comatose - I hope you like it! 


Comatose - Part 2

When Jack woke up, the trees were shaking.

Jack sat upright and stared at the quivering leaves and shaking branches. Fear cloaked his heart, and before he knew what he was doing, he grabbed Pitley’s hand and hauled him to his feet. “Wh-what’s happening?” the boy murmured, his eyes glued shut with sleep. He raised a small hand and wiped the gunk from his eyelids, and slowly, he looked up at Jack and frowned. “What’s wrong?”

Jack didn’t answer. He was watching the trees. They were still shaking, rocking in the non-existent breeze but now something odd was happening. The leaves were falling off. Shots of black crept up the emerald veins and then, they simply gave up, spiralling to the ground in a huge dark mass. Jack had never seen anything like it. Nothing died in the jungle. Nothing.

Jack bent down and grasped Pitley by the shoulders, searching his eyes for a sign. This new boy, this new world that was so radically different from the one he was used to - there must be a connection. Nothing. The boy’s brown eyes were worried and filling with pearly tears. “Jack? What’s happening?”

“I-I don’t know. We need to go. I’ll carry you.”

Pitley nodded and Jack scooped him into his arms. Arms curled round his neck and Jack started walking, side-stepping the growing piles of black. He shot a glance over his shoulder and jumped. The pile of rot and decay by the tree was moving. Just a tiny bit. Not much. But it was moving, reaching out towards them. It was familiar, the way it moved. It had odd grace, slithering over the roots and branches towards them. It was a snake, a spider with spindly legs. It was a hunter.

That was when it hit him, the recognition. It was the Dark, creeping towards him, getting ready to eat them both, to swallow them whole and digest them. The leaves were becoming the darkness. Jack turned round and saw the other piles of leaves stretching out, extending tentacles and hands. It was crawling up trees and pooling over rocks. They needed to go. Now.

Jack leapt into action. His legs pumped like pistons as he sprinted, dodging trees. His feet brushed the forest floor, slipping over the Dark with every step. He could feel it reaching for him, licking his bare feet and ticking his ankles. The trees were becoming bare, skeletal, and the patches of earth were becoming rarer. Jack kept running, hoisting Pitley further up onto his shoulder. Tears were dampening his back, but he barely noticed. They had to get away from the light dark, the glowing dark, the ravenous darkness.

The trees thinned into an opening and Jack skidded to a stop. The trees circling them were black and the ground was thick with the Dark, bar the patch he standing on. Turning around, Jack let slip a swear word and a quiet scream. The Dark had blocked the exit, locking them into this cage. Jack turned around. There was no way out. He hugged Pitley to his chest and swallowed. “It’s ok, it’s ok,” he said, trying hard to quell the fear that was welling inside him. Pitley hiccupped and sobbed, his nails digging into Jack’s shoulders.

“Wh-wha-what is it?”

Jack felt something brush his foot and, jerking backwards, he kicked it away. The tentacle retreated a few inches and then started its slow march back towards him. The patch of earth was becoming smaller and smaller. “I don’t know, buddy, ok? It’s going to be ok, though. I- I promise.”

Pitley sobbed again and buried his head into Jack’s chest, closing his eyes. Jack watched his chest rise and fall, jerk and dance, a tear fell onto the Dark. He was so scared, not for himself, but for Pitley. He couldn’t remember having siblings, but Pitley, with his small scarred stump and almond eyes made him wish and want for one. He was so small, so vulnerable. He didn’t know what would happen, and that tore Jack’s heart apart.

Jack sat down on the grass and felt the rotting Dark slither over him, coating his feet and legs in slime. It crawled towards him, up his shorts and onto Pitley’s gown. It moved further and further upwards and Jack closed his eyes. The end. He had ran for years, running from the Dark that wanted eat him alive and now, the time had come to surrender. His white flag was raised. His arsenal was broken and his will was shattered. Surrendering was easy, but giving up hope was hard.

As the Dark swallowed him, he heard Pitley’s heart beat, the final funeral march of a lost and tired soldier.

*
“Is he waking up?”

“Is it working?”

“His pulse is speeding up...his vitals are good.”

“Oh, Harold, his finger just twitched! He’s coming to!”

Jack felt someone touch his arm, caressing the skin with smooth fingers. He moved his hand away and heard a yelp of delight. “His arm just moved! It moved!”

Jack could see something. A pinprick of light, a slash in the darkness. He looked at it and blinked. The slash vanished and then reappeared. Oh. He opened his eyes a little bit more. More light and a voice slurred with tears. “He’s waking, Harold. Six years and he’s going to see our faces again...oh god, oh god...”
There was woman and two men. He could see their outlines. The woman was bent over, a veil of red hair hiding her tearful eyes. “Mum?”

Jack didn’t know where the word had come from, or whether he had even said it out loud. “Mum?” he said again, louder. His throat hurt.

“Oh god...Jack...you...you’re ok...” A hand grasped his and Jack opened his eyed fully, the world spilling forward like a tide. He was in a room...not a room, a corridor, with funny curtains round his bed. He was wearing a gown. Pitley’s gown.

He was in hospital. He was in hospital?

“Wh-” Jack touched his throat. It hurt a lot. One of the men reached forward and handed him a small cup of something, his stethoscope dangling into Jack’s face.

“Hello, Jack. How are you feeling?”

The man was a doctor. He understood now. Jack sipped at the liquid and was surprised to find that it was water, cool crisp water. He hadn’t drunk anything in years. IT soothed his throat and Jack handed the empty cup back to the man. “I’m...tired.”

The woman sobbed louder and the other man draped a hand around her shoulder. He was crying too, but they were smaller tears, gentle tears. He was wearing a shiny gold ring. “Dad?”

The man nodded. “Glad to see you recognise me,” he said, another quiet tear slipping down his face.

Jack pulled his facial muscles into a smile, but it hurt, so he relaxed his face again. The doctor patted him on the shoulder. “It may take a while for you to  move, son. Your muscles haven’t been used, and they’re weak. You will need physiotherapy for a few months, but you should be able to walk and smile soon.”

Jack nodded. Walk. Walk walk walk walk...Pitley! Jack raised his head and looked at the doctor. “Pitley?”

The doctor’s brow furrowed. “Pitley? What are you trying to say?”

“Pitley. Boy. One leg. Small.”

Comprehension dawned on the doctor’s face. “Ah, you mean Zane? The boy in the next bed?”

Jack paused and then nodded. “Can I see him? Is he there?”

“Yes. I need to ask the parent’s first. He woke up an hour or so before you. Give me a moment.” The doctor smiled and vanished from the ‘room’, leaving Jack and his parents alone. They held him, fawned over him, talked to him, but Jack wasn’t listening. He was waiting for the doctor to come back through, to tell him the Pitley - no, Zane - was ok. He needed to see him again. The Dark has swallowed them... he had woken up...he was ok...

A few minutes passed and the doctor walked back into the ‘room’, pulling the curtain away with large, calloused hands. “He’s just through there.” The doctor motioned past the curtain and Jack craned his head.

A mop of blonde hair and pale, smiling face. Pitley smiled weakly and ran his hands over his duvet. “Hi.”
A smile burst onto Jack’s face and he shimmed himself upwards, ignoring the pain shooting through his muscles. “Pitley. You’re ok.”

“Who’s Pitley?”

Jack’s face fell for a second. He didn’t remember the jungle, or the Dark. But then he brightened again. It didn’t matter. He remembered, and he knew what had happened, even if it was a dream. “It doesn’t matter,” he said, a bigger smile blossoming on his face. “I’m glad you’re ok.”

“I’m glad you’re ok.” The boy wrung his hands and looked nervously at a haggard woman sitting beside him. 

Her face was streaked with damp lines and her hand was curled around the side of the bed. “I had a dream about you.”

“Me too.”

Pitley nodded. “We should talk some more later. I’m tired now.”

“Ok, buddy. You can sleep.” Jack motioned for the doctor to close the curtain and he relaxed backwards. He was tired as well, so very very tired. “I think I’m going to sleep now,” he announced.

His mum beamed at him and clenched his hand harder. “Ok, baby, we’ll be here when you wake up. Rest.”
Jack closed his eyes.

This time, the darkness smiled at him and shut its hungry mouth.

This time, he was bathed in light.


Thursday, 10 January 2013

Comatose - Part 1

Hello there, and I hope everyone's year is off to a flying start! Mine is going pretty well so far, mainly becuase my excitement for seeing John and Hank Green in less than a month is making me deliriousness happy. But I digress. Over the Christmas holidays I actually wrote something, and I figure you deserve to see it. It's not my best story, but I like the concept. Enjoy!

Comatose - Part 1

Jack was alone in his jungle world.

He knew he was alone. The trees were always still, and the silence was broken only by his own breathing. There were no animal tracks; no fish drifting down the river, pushed forward by the current. There were no birds tweeting or flying in the light of the setting sun, and there were no broken twigs or scratched tree trunks.  There was no one.

Which is why the noise made him jump.

It was quiet and high-pitched, a yelp or a scream. Jack froze, his hand curled tightly around the hilt of a makeshift knife. He searched the bushes around him, peering through the green leaves and brown earth for another colour, a brighter, nicer colour. There was nothing. Jack relaxed his muscles, letting the jagged edge of the knife stroke his thigh. He was dressed in a small pair of shorts that were frayed and ripped at the edges. Their faded blue pattern could still be seen through the smeared mud and stains.

Jack swallowed and started walking again, his back bent and his feet light. It was a skill he had practiced ever since he had first arrived in this strange world. His noisy footsteps had sounded horribly out of place in the silence - the steady creeping made him feel better. He felt safer knowing he was invisible, intangible, that if someone did arrive, they wouldn’t see him or hear him for a very long time. The creeping did have another advantage, of course. It helped him avoid the Dark.

There was a sudden rustling from the bushes and Jack darted backwards, his hand tightening on his knife. So there was something here with him. He wondered whether it would be friendly or whether, like the Dark, it would try to devour him whole. Jack tilted his head past the bark of a tree to look at the bushes again. They were still rustling, the emerald leaves jerking and twitching, catching the light of the golden rays that shot down from between the trees. Friend or foe?

With nimble grace that he had also been practicing, Jack leapt onto the tree, his bare feet curving round the trunk. He scrambled up it and held on tight. He clung to a branch and edged along it, positioning himself above the bush, and then, his thin arms flexing and his back arching, he swung around and hung down from the tree, his knees locked into place and his hair grazing the top of the bush. He held his knife upwards and waited. He could stay still if he wanted, wait for the monster to pass, or he could let go and slice through skin and bone until the threat was gone forever.

It took a minute for something to happen; the leaves shook one last time, and someone crawled out of the bush, tears dropping to the dirt below. Jack narrowed his eyes and tensed his muscles. The person was small, tiny and in an odd way, lopsided. It was a boy, with shaken blonde hair and a thin gown that was patterned blue with red dots. He was sobbing, weeping, his tears spilling down his anguished face and his chest heaving as he tried to regain his breathing. His eyes, shadowed with puffy red skin, were a dull brown. 

“Mummy? MUMMY?!”

His cries sliced through the silence and a fresh onslaught of tears fell to the ground. Jack watched the crying boy for a moment and then, the ghost of a smile on his lips, he slowly let himself drop, landing with a small thud. The boy didn’t notice, and Jack took a step forward, tucking the knife into the waistband of his shorts. The boy still didn’t turn around - he just kept crying and sobbing and weeping for his mum. Jack began to feel a bit awkward. He had been in this place for months, maybe years, and his social skills were slightly off. He couldn’t remember the protocol for this - was he meant to tap the kid on the shoulder? Was he meant to say something? Was he meant to leave? Jack, in his infinite wisdom, didn’t know. So, he did the only think he could think of.

He sang.

He didn’t know where the tune came from. It just...happened, erupted from his mouth and streamed into the air, the melody drifting through the jungle like an immense satin ribbon. It twisted and twirled and rose and fell. It sounded like a lullaby, but Jack couldn’t be sure. The boy stopped crying and looked up, his face the picture of terror. Jack kept singing, letting the song soothe his creaking, unused throat. He remembered singing in the past but like all of his memories, it was faded, warped by time and an overactive imagination. He remembered singing the song before...was it a theme song to something? He thought so. Two brothers, fighting shadows and the dark.

The song finished and Jack looked down at the boy curled up on the dirt. His eyes were wide and his mouth was open slightly, fear and amazement mixed together. Jack gave him a little smile - his facial muscles twinged painfully at the exercise - and he held out a hand. The little boy stared at it for a second and then he grabbed it. Jack hoisted him to his feet. “I’m Jack.”

The boy scrubbed his head with one hand and wobbled, almost falling over. Jack suddenly realised why he looked lopsided - he only had one leg. The other was an unprotected stump, cut short just above the knee. 
He would have to get a crutch. “My name’s...Pitley.”

“Pitley? I’ve always loved that name.” A smile fled across the little boy’s face and he lurched forward, grabbing the hem of Jack’s shorts and pulling them down slightly. Jack grabbed his arms and steadied him. “Do you want me to carry you?”

Pitley’s face creased for a second and, shutting his eyes against a fresh flood of tears, he nodded. Jack bent 
down and hooked his arm under the boy’s leg, pulling him into a baby lift. “There we go. Are you ok?”

“Y-yes,” Pitley hiccupped, bowing his head. A tear slid down Jack’s chest. “I want to go home.”

“I know. But we just have to wait a while, ok?” Pitley looked up at him and nodded, and taking a deep breath, Jack started walking.

He didn’t know what to do, or what to say, or how to act. He couldn’t remember being with a child, or being a child himself. He didn’t know whether to be painfully honest or stupidly casual. He didn’t know where they would sleep - he usually climbed a tree, but the kid had one leg. How was he meant to cope with that? He would have to make a crutch and help him walk. What if he needed to be fed? Jack never ate in here, but what if Pitley had to eat and drink? What if the Dark ensnared him? What then? Would he be alone again?

Jack walked for a while, his thoughts chasing each other like dogs on a track. Eventually, he stopped and put 
Pitley down at the base of a tree. His eyes were closing. “Thank you,” he whispered as Jack sat down beside him.

“No problem. What age are you?”

“I’m six. What...what ‘bout you?”

“Fifteen, I think. I don’t know. I honestly don’t know anymore.”

There was no reply. Pitley’s eyes had closed and he was snoring gently. Jack smiled at him and, curling up beside him, held his hand. Poor kid. Only six, and he was destined to a life of fighting the shadows and running from the silence. Poor Pitley. Poor Jack. 

There was nothing they could do to change their fate - they were now locked in this world of no beginning and no end, where the Dark could eat you and the sun never fully set. The Dark was a different kind of dark. It was a bright dark, a light dark, the dark you saw just as you closed your eyes and drifted off to a troubled sleep. Jack had never been touched by it before, but just by looking at it, he could tell it was bad news, and he knew he had to run from it. Sometimes it glowed white, and he could see his mother and father...but it was only for a second and then there was nothing, just the Dark chasing him through the trees.

Jack pushed the thoughts of the Dark to one side, and let himself fall into sleep.

*

“It’s a new drug called Campiliaxenor....it might work...we’ve been trying it on other patients...”

“And have they woken up?”

“So far, yes. It stimulates...brain cells....adrenaline...If you give us permission, we’ll use it on your son at the same time we try it on Mrs Pirelli’s son...”

“What - the boy in the next bed?”

“They’re both comatose...we can help them with this drug, Madam. This could work. We just need your approval...”

“But what if it doesn’t work?”

“There are no obvious side-effects if the drug doesn’t work. Brain function will increase, and muscles may begin to twitch...if it doesn’t work, your son will be the exact same as he is just now.”

“So...it’s a win-win situation?”

“I wouldn’t phrase it like that myself, but I suppose you could say that.”

“We’ll do it.”

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Some Interesting * Writing* Observations on 2012

Hello, and Happy New Year to all my followers! I hope 2013 brings you happiness and light and yada yada yada, you know the drill. 2012 was a neutral year for me, the good balancing the bad in terms of life changing moments, and hopefully, 2013 will tip the scales in my favour. Or at least, that's the plan.

This post is going to be short, as I want to focus it on my writing this past year. Chances are you won't care a lot about this, but I feel like it is something I need to share. For the year of 2012, I kept a journal of how many words I wrote a day and then totalled it up at the end of the week. I have OCD, I know, but this has turned out to be surprisingly useful. It kept me disciplined and striving to beat my previous record. However, it had a few drawbacks. The last few months of the year left me quite stressed and so I wasn't writing as much - in fact, I barely wrote anything. This lack of entries in the journal made me guilty and angry with myself, making the stress worse...and well, it wasn't a very nice feeling. Despite that, the journal was a good idea, and the results it showed were interesting:


  • In 2012, I wrote *about* 257,603 words - just over J.K Rowling's Order of the Phoenix  Considering I was studying for exams and coping with some stress, I think that is a pretty good word count!
  • The average word count per week was 6440 words, though I wrote more words in the latter half of the year than in the former.
  • The highest word count was 11534 words, which was the week I was writing the climax of Wolfbane. The second highest was 11371 words, which was the week I finished Arwyn.
  • My writing style changed a lot over the year. For example in the first few months, I was writing little and often, but after the summer I was writing a lot a few times a week. The first method amassed about 6000 words a week; the latter about 8000.

So, that's that.  I think I did quite well with myself over the past year. This year though, the rules are being relaxed - there is no journal, no schedule telling me I need to write. I will write when I want and hopefully, I'll feel better for it.